Dark clouds of depression loom
Clean-cricket drive stepped up, 3 in net
Deluge turns market dearer
At 85, widow waits to win crore for a cause
Art In Lifestyle
Crackers being smuggled in
Charges fly over dubious parlours
Police hand-in-glove with bheri goons, says
SP’s murder baffles investigating agencies

 
 
DARK CLOUDS OF DEPRESSION LOOM 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
After the monsoon, a depression. Two days after the formal exit of the monsoon, winds exceeding 55 kmph, accompanied by light rain, swept across north and central Calcutta on Sunday afternoon as a depression developed over the Bay of Bengal.

According to the weather office, the depression now lies centred about 800 km south of Calcutta and is moving in a north-westerly direction.The weather office has issued a warning to fishermen in South 24-Parganas and Midnapore not to venture out into the sea.

The ripple effect of this depression over the coastal districts will be felt more sharply in Calcutta as it moves further north, weather experts said. “But there is no immediate alert for Calcutta,” clarified deputy director of the Alipore Met office, Mihir Guha.

Around 4.30 pm on Sunday, rainclouds drifted in over Dum Dum, Salt Lake, Lake Town, Ultadanga, Kankurgachhi and Sealdah, leading to a sudden change in weather conditions, an official said.

The Met office recorded 0.4 mm of rainfall in Dum Dum.

This change in weather condition is expected to result in an “unseasonal drop in temperature”.

“A drop of about one degree Centigrade was recorded on Sunday night,” said Guha. “In the next few days, cloud formation, gusty winds and light rain will lead to a further drop in temperatures,” he added.

The weatherman warns of light rain accompanied by thunder and squally winds in the next 24 hours. This is because more clouds are expected to drift in from the depression zone.

“The low-pressure belt had formed last Friday near the Andaman Islands, nearly 1,000 km from Calcutta. It moved very slowly, intensified into a depression south-east of Calcutta on Sunday morning,” explained Guha.

“Now it has moved north-westward and is lying 800 km south of Calcutta and 500 km south-east of Visakhapatnam,” he added. The movement of the depression is “being closely monitored” by the Met office. “October is a very, very dangerous month,” said Guha.“After all, the supercyclone had hit the Orissa coast on October 29 last year. We are monitoring the depression and keeping our fingers crossed.”

The state government, which was informed about the depression by the Met office on Sunday, has alerted the district magistrates of Midnapore, North and South 24-Parganas. “We are taking no chances. As soon as we came to know of the depression, we contacted the authorities of the three districts and asked them to be on alert,” said state finance minister Asim Dasgupta.

From the way it is moving now, even if the depression takes a turn towards Calcutta and Gangetic West Bengal, it will take at least three to four days before its full impact is felt over the city.    


 
 
CLEAN-CRICKET DRIVE STEPPED UP, 3 IN NET 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
With fortunes swinging wildly on the pitch at the Nairobi Gymkhana, cricket betting reached fever pitch in Calcutta on Sunday.

Following intelligence reports that the numbers game in the city was being masterminded by a set of bookies “with international connections”, the Central Bureau of Investigation, Enforcement Directorate and Calcutta Police launched ‘Operation Flushout’, even as India and New Zealand squared off for the ICC Knockout finals.

Police officers conducted raids at several places in New Alipore, Alipore, Rashbehari Avenue, Burrabazar and Central Avenue.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Narayan Ghosh said sleuths had fanned out across the city from the morning. “We have checked the betting sheets thoroughly and found 250 code numbers, like 1A and 2X. Figures are first scribbled on marking sheets and then fed into the computer,’’ said Ghosh.

According to a deputy inspector-general of the CBI in New Delhi, a special five-member team, part of the cricket-betting probe, reached Calcutta on Sunday and held meetings with senior city police and enforcement officers to chalk out the strategy.

Detectives seized some documents and cellphones on Sunday morning. Three persons in their mid-thirties were detained, but the police chose not to disclose their identities for fear of “alerting their associates”.

“The three detained persons have given us some valuable information about the cricket betting syndicate’s operations in the city,’’ a senior detective said.

CBI sources revealed that the needle of suspicion pointed at Dubai-based don Fazl-ur-Rehman, once a close associate of Dawood Ibrahim. Rehman is, apparently, operating the betting syndicate in six Indian cities, including Calcutta. Two of Rehman’s associates, Mohammed Salim, 35, and Imtiaz Ali Khan, 38, had arrived in the city a week ago to cash in on the cricket craze sweeping Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly’s hometown.

Salem and Khan had put up in a city hotel from where they “recruited people’’ to operate the betting network.

Police sources said around 50 bookies across the city took the bets for the final on mobile phones and computers on Saturday night and Sunday morning. During the course of the finals, the odds fluctuated wildly, with India dipping from firm favourites during the Sachin-Sourav opening stand to underdogs with Chris Cairns going great guns.

Meanwhile, the five bookies arrested on Friday night, during the India vs South Africa semi-final, were interrogated on Sunday. On the basis of information gathered from them, officers of Calcutta Police got in touch with their counterparts in Mumbai and Delhi for more leads on the betting syndicate.

In the city, investigating officers are keeping an eye on some big-time businessman in the Salt Lake-Beleghata-Phoolbagan-Ultadanga belt for their alleged links with the bookies.“We have engaged some experts to trace out the ‘memory list’ of the seized mobile phones used for betting,” said Narayan Ghosh. “Once we get the list of ‘dialled’ and ‘received’ numbers, we will be able to track down the rest members of this betting ring,” he added.    


 
 
DELUGE TURNS MARKET DEARER 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
Prices of vegetables and fruits have shot up with supply to city markets drying up in the wake of the floods in nine districts of the state. A tour of some of the major markets on Sunday revealed that prices of a large number of vegetables have doubled over the past fortnight, but prices of fruits, like apple and pear, have gone up by at least Rs 10 to 15 a kg.

“The fields producing vegetables have been inundated. That is why the supply has been miserable this month,” said Sunil Kar, a vegetable-seller in Gariahat.

A huge amount of vegetables arrive in Calcutta from Burdwan, Nadia, Murshidabad, Hooghly and North 24-Parganas. Due to the floods, the standing crop of vegetables have been destroyed.

Prices of fruits have spiralled with trucks bringing them to Calcutta held up on flood-ravaged roads. “The roads leading to Calcutta from the districts were waterlogged, preventing transportation of stocks,” said Mahesh Kumar Singhania, chairman, Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations.

“Every year, there is a flood and prices shoot up. The government doesn’t seem to have any control over the situation,” complained Sovana Acharya, a resident of Lake Place.    


 
 
AT 85, WIDOW WAITS TO WIN CRORE FOR A CAUSE 
 
 
BY SUDESHNA BANERJEE
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
Mr Amitab Bachan (sic), c/o Bombay movieland, c/o The Telegraph, the address on the blue inland letter said. On the flipside, the sender’s name and address: Miss Lakshmi Dogra, 4-A Sunflower Court, Calcutta 700 019.

“I do not know how to enter your contest for becoming a Crorepati. Could you please let me know how to enter the competition?” the letter said. Miss Dogra appeared to be one of the crores whose heads Bachchan’s Kaun Banega Crorepati? has turned until one got to one sentence in the letter. “I am a widow and 85 years old. I am most of the time ill...”

The door to Lakshmi Dogra’s apartment off Ballygunge Circular Road is opened by a servant, who goes away with the calling card to inform the lady of the house. In the well-appointed drawing room, there’s a huge portrait in oil, numerous brass artefacts giving it company. All the seating places are covered, though whatever furnishings were visible looked quite plush. No one seemed to be expecting any guests in this house.

Inside, perched in bed, amid a pile of publications, was a dignified lady. It was apparent she stayed alone with a quartet of servants, who had formed a semi-circle round her bed, trying to follow the conversation in English, the language of her choice, which initially consisted of an explanation for the visit prompted by her letter to this paper.

In slow, deliberate utterances, she expressed her desire to get on the show. “I want the money to start a school for streetchildren,” she said.

That would mean a trip to Mumbai by someone who has not stepped outdoors in five years, except to go to nursing homes, and can walk only with support. “I will get well. I used to be a sportsperson once,” she said, with an air of quiet assurance.

A maid propped her up on a pillow. “I spent my early years in Lahore. I was the only sister and used to play football and hockey with my brothers.” At FC College, she met her future husband. “We tied the knot in 1936 and shifted to Amritsar,” she said. After a few years there and a short stay in a village near Ludhiana, they went down south and what was then Madras became their home for the next 50 years. “My husband became secretary of the Madras Race Club. He was a keen golfer. Soon, I, too, picked up the game. Together we toured the world, taking part in tournaments and winning quite a few.”

She beckons a maid, who fetches a trophy: The Winifred Milne Cup, Ooty, 1961, Mrs D.K. Dogra. “We had to return the original after a year. This is a miniature.” As she pauses for breath, her eyes turn to a black and white photograph on her bedside. “My husband...he was a handsome man.” She gazes out of the window into the distance. “We loved dancing.”

Their association with Calcutta began on a tragic note. Mr Dogra was diagnosed with cancer. They moved in with their elder daughter, who was living in Calcutta. “He passed away in the city. I have stayed back here, though my daughter left for the States.”

In the silence of her lonesome existence, a piece of reality screams out for attention. There is no TV in the room. “Have you seen the Crorepati show?” I ask. “No. Read about it in the papers. So many people getting so much money...” she muses.

Given her years and age-induced illness, her medical bills are high. Does she need the money for meeting those expenses? “I don’t need any money for myself,” she says.

She does buy lottery tickets, though all that she has ever won is Rs 5. “I am not lucky with lotteries.” She has already ordered her attendants to buy her the Diwali bumper. In the twilight of her life, Lakshmi Dogra retains her faith in fortune. That even at 85, something might happen to change her life.    


 
 
ART IN LIFESTYLE 
 
 
BY SOUMITRA DAS
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
Of course, you can’t afford a Jogen Chowdhury. But what about a table or a bedcover, or even a T-shirt emblazoned with his trademark bird or apple? That comes for a fraction of the price of an original painting.

Sunil Das’ horses and bulls are surely collector’s items. But, again, beyond the reach of most of us. So why not a dinner plate on which he has painted an equine head? Again for a comparatively low price.

To make beautifully designed objects of everyday use available to the emergent middle class with buying power, The Centre of International Modern Art (CIMA) has organised a show where utility items created and designed by contemporary artists are displayed alongside the works of traditional craftsmen.

CIMA had some time ago organised an art camp where senior contemporary artists like the two mentioned above and others like Badhan Das, Siddhartha Ghosh, Abhijit Gupta, Parthapratim Deb and even very young ones like Anjum Singh, Sumitro Basak, Paula Sengupta, Partha Dasgupta, Arup Ghosh, sculptor Aku, ceramic artist Nidhi Bagrodia and tapestry artist Sanjib Kumar Saha had produced utility items that could cheer up the dreariest of rooms, and which one could acquire without burning a hole in one’s pocket.

Till recently, the middle-class Indian had no designs on his/her living space. A chouki served as the bed and the sofa, all clothes, including woollies, were mothballed in huge steel trunks. Everyday wear was neatly arranged on a clothes horse. If the family happened to be prosperous enough, a few chairs, and in extreme cases of enlightenment, a table would be thrown in. Calendars of gods and goddesses and framed embroidery provided the only form of pictorial relief on walls.

But for the past two decades or so, his/her outlook towards design has undergone a radical change. The middle-class Indian has become colour-conscious and she/he spends more time trying to figure out which piece of furniture would be displayed to best effect in which corner.

Thanks to the proliferation of life-style magazines and the irresistible urge to keep up with the Joneses, design has become a way of living. Delhi and Mumbai perhaps showed the way. But now the city of Calcutta is not far behind.

The CIMA exhibition is meant for those who believe that however humble or simple, a thing of beauty is a joy forever. There are beautiful lamps made of strips of painted silk or spherical wire egg baskets covered with gauze and painted over. One lamp with strikingly good looks has a sheet of crumpled bronze at its base. It could easily double as a piece of sculpture. The same holds for a magazine stand which is just a folded brass plate.

Umbrellas are printed with motifs from old woodcut advertisements. But they are eye-catching because of contrasting hues. There are zany, handpainted T- shirts — one with a variation on the theme of a lover exposing his heart.

Boxes painted by artists with sheets of glass laid on top serve as colourful tables. There is a huge chessboard of wood and leather and chunky ceramic chess pieces. Besides the mugs, vases, lamps and masks there are a whole lot of interesting shapes in ceramics — some zany animal forms.

Many of these have a glaze that is almost jewel-like. One artist has produced terracotta mirrors whose simplicity is in striking contrast with the ornateness of the brass ones.

The fabrics from Varanasi are simply gorgeous. There are brocade and tanchoi bedcovers and cushion covers of gold tissue.

The smaller pieces — some with surprisingly modern geometrical designs — could be used asdupattas, stoles or throws. Dupattas from Dhaka are also on display.

Tiny yet colourful and painstakingly detailed wooden toys depicting gods from the Hindu pantheon as well as bands, too, are from that temple town. A bright yellow tiger is actually a picture frame.

These craftsmen have produced their very own version of Matreshka dolls from Russia. They have replaced the cute girl with equally cute owls, elephants and tigers. From Gujarat have come the exquisitely beautiful applique bedcovers in shades of white and cream.

Jaydev Behgal, a traditional sculptor from Bastar who has won the President’s award, has brought a huge Tree of Life.

The craftsman has produced other starkly beautiful pieces like a mother and child. Pata artists Swarna and Manimala Chitrakar, who usually paint on scrolls, have painted the same naive images on boxes. There is a range of glass and metalware — such as trays and hubble-bubbles — the silver polish on the metal complementing the rich hues of the glass.    


 
 
CRACKERS BEING SMUGGLED IN 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
With Kali Puja 10 days away, the state pollution control board (PCB) has warned that banned firecrackers are finding their way into the city and neighbouring districts through Bihar and Orissa.

Acting on a tip-off, a team of PCB officials visited Purulia and its neighbourhood during Durga Puja and found that firecrackers emitting noise above the stipulated 90 decibels were being used freely. Similar reports have come in from Midnapore, where banned fireworks have come in from Orissa.

A senior PCB official said on Sunday that these “noisy firecrackers” will flood the Calcutta market before Kali Puja, October 24. “We will ask the police to keep a strict watch in the districts bordering Bihar and Orissa,” said K.S. Ramasubban, member secretary, PCB.

The Board had, apparently, warned the police about the smuggling of banned firecrackers from Bihar and Orissa at a meeting held in July this year.

Police sources said banned firecrackers were also trickling into the city from the Bally and Belur areas of Howrah, Nungi and Budge Budge in South 24-Parganas, Bhadreswar and Telenipara in Hooghly and Nilgunj and Barasat in North 24-Parganas.

“We are keeping a strict vigil on the fringe areas and conducting surprise checks on vehicles at various entry points to the city. We are also coordinating with the district police and plan to conduct raids in Calcutta from Monday,” said Narayan Ghosh, deputy commissioner, detective department.

There is a blanket ban on eight types of crackers — chocolate bombs, kalipatka, chain crackers, dhani patka, seven-shot, dodoma, loose crackers and rocket bombs.

Firework dealers at Canning Street, however, said they would not be selling any of the banned firecrackers. “Most of our fireworks arrive from Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu, Mahavir factory in Barrackpore and Burima factory in Belur. The only noise-producing cracker we sell is the cap, which is used in toy pistols, and its noise-level is well below 90 decibels,” said Hemanta Pal, joint secretary of Burrabazar Fire Works Dealers’ Association.    


 
 
CHARGES FLY OVER DUBIOUS PARLOURS 
 
 
BY A STAFF REPORTER
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
A day after the arrest of four women and two men from a beauty parlour in Behala, local Congress leaders on Sunday charged Trinamul Congress councillor Arup Biswas with indirectly promoting the parlour business in the area.

Even as Biswas denied the allegation, belligerent Congress activists have planned a mass deputation to Behala police, demanding action against the Trinamul leader. Sailen Dasgupta, Congress councillor of Behala and leader of the party in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation, said on Sunday the police were aware of the Trinamul leader’s nexus with beauty parlour-owners. “We will have to step up a movement if the police do not take any action against him,” Dasgupta added.

Another Congress leader, preferring anonymity, alleged that beauty parlours could not have thrived in the area unless they were backed by the Trinamul Congress, which controls the area. He recounted that the Trinamul councillor had also prevented the police from carrying out raids in some beauty parlours in the New Alipore area a few months ago.

Echoing the Congress leaders, a CPM functionary also complained that the Trinamul Congress was promoting the parlour business to earn easy money from its owners.

Reacting to the allegations made by both the local Congress and CPM leaders, an angry Biswas said: “This is nothing but an attempt to malign me and Trinamul Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee.” He claimed that the party had played a major role to close down at least 12 beauty parlours in the Behala-New Alipore area after he was elected to the civic body.

Biswas said he did not mind joining hands with the Congress and the CPM as well to mount a united protest against beauty parlours. Officer-in-charge of Behala police station, Subir Chatterjee, however, refused to comment on whether Biswas was backing the beauty parlours. “But I feel that all political parties should back us in imposing more restrictions on the beauty parlours in the area,” he added.    


 
 
POLICE HAND-IN-GLOVE WITH BHERI GOONS, SAYS 
 
 
BY OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
 
Calcutta, Oct. 15: 
After a crackdown on partymen having “close links” with goons in the Dhapa-Tiljala belt, the CPM leadership on Sunday attacked the local police for their “inept handling” of crime in the city’s sprawling eastern fringe.

Amal Majumdar, secretary of Jadavpur zonal committee, which controls Dhapa and seven other local units, alleged on Sunday that a section of policemen were colluding with the local anti-socials.

Majumdar was addressing a meeting off the EM Bypass to condole the death of Kalipada Kazi, Dhapa local committee secretary. Samir Putatunda, CPM’s South 24-Parganas district secretary, was also present.

Kazi’s body was found in a bheri early on Wednesday. The murder is said to be a sequel to the death of Netai Mondal, CPM-backed crimelord in the Dhapa area, on Monday night.

Majumdar told The Telegraph on Friday that the partymen’s hobnobbing with criminals of the area had led to Kazi’s murder. The party has asked all 16 members of the Dhapa local committee to sever links with goons who have infiltrated the party and have been exploiting it for years.

The police are yet to arrest four men wanted in connection with Kazi’s murder. Although police superintendent A.K. Maliwal claimed on Sunday that two more were arrested during the day, those who had masterminded the murder are absconding. Those arrested have been remanded in jail custody.

A senior officer said arrests were being delayed by some local CPM leaders, who were sheltering those named in the FIR. At least two of the criminals have fled to neighbouring districts, he said.

Suicide: Monika Mondal, a 22-year-old housewife, committed suicide on Sunday morning by consuming insecticide at home at Tajpur, in Howrah’s Amta area. Neighbours assaulted her husband, Bhaskar, after her death.    


 
 
SP’S MURDER BAFFLES INVESTIGATING AGENCIES 
 
 
FROM RUDRA BISWAS
 
Ranchi, Oct. 15: 
Different agencies probing the murder of Lohardaga superintendent of police Ajay Kumar Singh on October 4 have hinted at the possibility of a conspiracy. They said the assailants may have first led the unsuspecting SP to the dense forests near Peshrar village and then killed him. They later gave wrong clues about the scene of the incident to mislead investigations.

A tight security ring has been thrown around Lohardaga deputy commissioner N. Vijay Laxmi after intelligence reports said she figured high on the hit list of various extremist groups operating in the district.

On October 4, Ajay Kumar Singh was stopped by a landmine explosion while raiding rebel hideouts near Peshrar and later shot dead. Suspected Maoist Communist Centre militants fired indiscriminately at the vehicle in which Singh was travelling. While Singh died on the spot, one of his bodyguards was injured.

Sources said investigating agencies along with ballistic experts, who examined the bullet-ridden jeep of the slain SP, were baffled by the fact that the extremists seemed to have fired from both sides of the jeep.

Sources pointed out that a single shot fired from the left side of the road shattered the left glass pane of the jeep and felled the SP, hitting him on his left temple. The bullet marks on the right side of the jeep showed that simultaneous firing had erupted from the right side of the road as well, though it did not lead to any casualties. However, sources added that the moram road through the Peshrar jungles was barely 18 ft wide and the extremists, who are conversant with combat techniques, would have never fired from opposite directions and risked the lives of their comrades on the opposite side. Sources added that since it was unlikely that the extremists had fired on themselves, the firing from the right side of the road on the SP’s jeep might have taken place much later in an effort to distort the scene of the incident.

The sources further revealed that statements given by the bodyguards of the slain SP to the various agencies were full of contradictions, making it impossible to reconstruct the scene of the incident. The sources added that a handwritten note allegedly by the People’s War, which was delivered to a reporter of a local Hindi daily, appears to be fraudulent. Sources said police officials in the region have asked state government asking for sufficient resources to tackle militancy in the adjoining districts.    

 

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